Proptivity In-building Network Pushes the Boundaries of Sharing

We teach our children “sharing is caring,” but in the rough and tumble world of wireless, carriers seldom care to share. The tower industry is an example of the benefits of sharing infrastructure.  DAS is another example of carriers agreeing to share. Proptivity’s plan for carriers to share both the radio and the baseband unit is, altogether, an extension of this concept.

“Sharing indoor networks is gaining popularity as it allows carriers and enterprises to reduce capex and power consumption while ensuring people and businesses get the high-performing indoor connectivity they need today and into the future,” Nils Andersson, Head of Indoor Radio, Ericsson, told Inside Towers, in reference to a neutral-host wireless in-building network being deployed in Stockholm by Proptivity.

In-building networks, which over the years have been dominated by passive and active DAS networks systems, are trending toward small cells, such as the Ericsson Radio Dot System, according to Andersson.

“With the Ericsson Dot Radio System, we place the radios closer to the end user and also we provide higher order MIMO from day one versus size to SISO in the DAS space,” he said. “Having the radio closer to the user also reduces signal loss and energy use.”

The next step for carriers, beyond sharing DAS antennas,  appears to be sharing the radio, transmitting all the operators’ bands, while bringing their own baseband.

“The Neutral-host environments are trending where a company that owns the indoor telecom network equipment will invite carriers to share the radios and deploy their own basebands on premise, which then connect back to their cores,” said Andersson.

In spring of 2022, Ooredoo Qatar and Ericsson implemented its first 5G Indoor shareable solution in Qatar. Using the Ericsson Indoor Connect 8855, they are achieving speeds of 1.5 Gbps in stadiums across the country.

Shirish Nagaraj, who leads technology development for Corning Optical Communications’ Wireless business unit, said he believes sharing of radio and digital distribution elements is “well-positioned in the operators’ minds right now.”

Proptivity, however, is taking sharing one step further. The Ericsson Radio Dot Systems transmit all of the operators’ frequencies, and the baseband is shared as well. The carriers then backhaul the baseband single to their cores. 

“So now, they’re sharing the radio access network,” Andersson said. “The amount of capex decreases as the amount of sharing increases. The driver here is to allow the operator to reduce the capex further and the power consumption on the side, while giving the end user the high performing indoor experience.” 

However, Nagaraj said when it comes to sharing of capacity source/baseband units/CU-DU,  he would be surprised to see operators ready to share in the near future. “It is, of course, possible in a Multi-Operator Core Networks approach if one operator is sharing the full infrastructure of another operator, and we have seen some interest in that.” Nagaraj said.

By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor

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